Riding on the roads is an inevitable part of hacking out for many owners. Despite its place firmly in our horses’ routines, riders who enjoy roadwork tend to be few and far between. However, by breaking riding on the roads down into bitesize chunks, you’ll soon become more comfortable and confident when you get on the tarmac.
By following the Highway Code you’ll give yourself and your horse the best chance of staying safe. Much like riding a bicycle on the roads, you and your horse are considered a vehicle, so should operate on the road as such. This means riding on the left-hand side, indicating with your arms to signal your intent to turn and avoiding the pavement. Just like when you’re driving, being courteous and aware of your surroundings will help keep both you and other road users safe.
If you need a reminder of the rules of the road, pick up a copy of the Highway Code or take a look at it online for free to refresh your memory. The BHS also run riding and road safety courses to help you feel more confident when out and about.
High-vis is an essential part of any rider’s hacking wardrobe, particularly if roadwork’s involved. While it might not be a legal requirement, it’s recommended that you and your horse wear at least one piece of high-vis clothing each, and that you use a variety of colours, too. By mixing colours you give yourself a better chance of being seen, particularly with unnatural colours, such as pink, which don’t blend into your surroundings. Many high-vis products also feature reflective strips that, while less effective during the day, come into their own at times of poorer visibility, reflecting headlights and making you more obvious to other road users. Wearing plenty of high-vis will give you confidence that you’ll be seen on the roads and be kept much safer as a result.
Look for high-vis products that meet BSI approved standards – either BSEN1150 or EN1150.
Roadwork provides a hard, even surface that’s rarely rendered unusable by a downpour typical of a UK winter. This gives you plenty of opportunity to ride out of the school, even when the local bridleways have become virtually inaccessible. However, setting your horse up for success is an important part of safe road riding. The more traffic your horse sees, the more comfortable and confident he’ll become. Begin by going out with a friend and their experienced mount outside rush hour, allowing your horse to become accustomed to standing quietly as the rest of the world rushes by. The acclimatised your horse becomes, the calmer he’ll be out on the roads – a horse who’s dancing about on the road is a danger to not only himself and you, but other road users, too.
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